I recently read an article in The Wall Street Journal about declining attendance at major college football games by college students.  It was in the July 17, 2015 edition of the paper and was titled “Just What Do Millennial Fans Want?”  It could just as easily have been titled “The Importance of Marketing Data When Trying to Figure Out What Your Customers Want.”

This decline in attendance by students is important to the schools “because of its potential implications for the future of college football and fundraising.”  So, the athletic directors at the major football programs have been spending a lot of money to install or upgrade Wi-Fi at their stadiums so that 100,000 smartphones in a confined area (the stadium) will work.

They did this because of perceptions of what millennials want.  Among other things, millennials want to be connected to their smartphones, social media and each other 24/7/365.

But, the schools did some surveys and found out that this was not really important to college football fans – students included.  The things that ranked highly were the student’s interest in the sport, clean restrooms, parking and concessions.  The “stadium’s cellular reception or wireless capability” were among the least important factors.

This doesn’t mean that spending money to provide good Wi-Fi at the stadium is a mistake.  As one athletic director said, “The key is preparing for the future. We know this is going to be a part of the fan experience, and we know fans will continue to evolve.”

Having said that, this does demonstrate the importance of really understanding what your customers want.  Make sure you know if they want a new product or service before you spend the time and money to bring in.  Have your sales people talk to your customers.  Send out a survey.  Invite some customers to be on an advisory board.

If you conduct an advertising or marketing campaign, make sure you structure it in a way that you can measure how well or poorly it does.  If you’re not sure how to do this, contact your local SBDC office.

You may not hit a home run every time you make a marketing decision.  But, good data will reduce your risk of striking out – and wasting time and money.

Matt's Headshot-SBDCMatt Pearce
B.S. in Business Administration, The Ohio State University
M.B.A., The Ohio State University
Business Consultant in Rome

Matt’s previous work experience includes financial management positions in the computer, freight/logistics and investment management industries. He also owned a business in northwest Georgia. He has worked in the Fortune 100, international business, and start-up operations. He brings an extensive background in the areas of financial planning and analysis, general management, business modeling, cash management, management reporting, taxes, sale & acquisition of businesses, and payroll & personnel management. With this broad background and perspective, he is able to help his clients determine the best course of action for their businesses or situations.